The students of bhakti literature gathered at Sri Radhagopinath Mandir (ISKCON) in Grant Road on Saturday, the 27th of August 2016 at 11am just as they would for their usual lectures as part of a field trip organised by the department of sanskrit, university of Mumbai ; unaware of the intellectual treat awaiting them.
The trip that aimed at acquainting the students to the tradition of Gaudiya vaishnavism, popularly known as the ISKCON or ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ culture, began with the darshan of Lord Radhagopinath ie. Krishna as he is known in that temple. The students were then led to a conference room where shri Gaurang Prabhuji, a scholar and practitioner of the Gaudiya sampradaya and director of Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha, delivered one of the most impressive and detailed lectures on the historical evolution of the ISKCON tradition.
Beginning with the etymology of the word ‘sampradaya’ which denotes ‘a lineage of perfect messengers’, prabhuji went on to enumerate and describe in brief the four major sampradayas and their acharyas as predicted in the Padma Purana. He mentioned therein that, amongst the four sampradayas, the ‘achintya bhedabhed’ philosophy followed by the gaudiya vaishnavas falls under the brahmasampradaya category.
Tracing bhakti in brief from the vedic times through the Gupta period, the Alwars to the acharyas, prabhuji then ventured into the term ‘Gaudiya’, explaining various meanings and interpretations of the word. He then spoke on the concept of ‘avatara’ and described Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as a ‘Prachchanna Avatara’. By giving a glimpse of Mahaprabhu’s life, he explained how bhakti refers to ‘harmony’.
With the help of a well designed PowerPoint presentation, prabhuji sailed through the historical background of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, beginning with the pre-chaitanya period, chaitanya period, post-chaitanya period until the bengal renaissance, the age of Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Saraswati Thakur, finally culminating into the times of Srila Prabhupada who established the Institute. The highlight of the lecture was prabhuji’s effortless quotations from the bhagavad geeta and the biographies of all the acharyas of the gaudiya sampradaya.
The entire history of the gaudiya sampradaya was summarised to the students in good length within 90minutes by a scholar within the sampradaya. And the students were left wanting for more such intellectual delights.
Guruji then mentioned the importance of ‘bhakti through food’ which is characteristic of the gaudiya tradition and the students were led to the prasad hall to experience that by partaking the prasad, made for the lord, by sitting along with other bhaktas, listening to discourse and taking the Lord’s name.
The intellectual delight followed by the energizing prasad left the students spellbound and eager for more such captivating and enlightening intellectual trips.

– Kanakavalli S. Chari.

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